How to use a smoker box on a gas grill: simple tips for success

Learn how to use a smoker box on a gas grill and give your food an authentic smokey flavor without the need for a charcoal BBQ

Close up one stainless steel metal smoker box with hardwood alder chips on black wooden table, ready to barbecue grill and smoke food,
(Image credit: Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo)

Knowing how to use a smoker box on a gas grill is a useful hack for those of us who love the ease of cooking on a gas BBQ, but miss that deep smoky flavor which can only be achieved by smouldering wood or coals.

This is where a smoker box comes in. It sits on the top of a gas grill and, when used correctly, oozes aromatic billowing smoke which infuses your recipes, truly providing the best of both worlds for your outdoor cooking endeavors. 

You can pick up smoker boxes fairly cheaply (with some models available for under $10) and the only other thing you'll need are the wood smoking chips, which you can get in a range of flavors from apple to hickory.

When selecting a smoker box for your gas grill it's important to get the right one. 'They come in a variety of sizes so make sure you get the right one to suit the size of your best BBQ,' advises Ginevra Benedetti, deputy editor of Ideal Home.

A stainless steel smoker box on a weber gas grill

(Image credit: Weber)

Simple tips for how to use a smoker box on a gas grill

'If you have a standard gas grill but wish to incorporate a smoky flavor to the food on your next outdoor cooking session, a brilliant grilling tip is to use a smoker box,' says Chris Bonnett founder of Gardening Express (opens in new tab).

'Smoker boxes are small metal containers filled with smouldering wood chips that emit smoke and give your barbecue a delicious taste. They’re easy to use and don’t require much preparation,' says Chris. You can buy smoker boxes for a gas grill at Amazon (opens in new tab) and other online retailers. 

Follow these top tips for how to use a smoker box on a gas grill to get the best results. 

  1. Start with preheating your grill for about 10-15 minutes on a high temperature. 
  2. Fill slightly more than half of the smoker box with wood smoking chips, available from Amazon (opens in new tab), and spread them evenly. Don’t overfill the box, otherwise it will reduce the smoke production. 
  3. You can place the smoker either on the grate or below it. The box should be as close to the heat source as possible, so if you’re using a gas grill then place it right above the burners.
  4. It takes about 10-15 minutes for the woods to start producing smoke. When you see smoke then it’s time to turn down the burners and reduce the temperature to about 435˚F (225˚C) to 480˚F or (250˚C).  
  5. Place the meat or vegetables on the grate, close the lid and let the food cook. The closer your food is to the smoker box, the more smoky it’s going to taste. 

How long does it take a smoker box to start smoking?

If you light a BBQ in advance and are adding your smoker box to a gas grill which has been allowed to heat up for the recommended 10-15 minutes then it should take another 10-15 minutes for the box to start smoking.

'Wait until smoke starts to appear before putting any food on the barbecue,' advises Dan Cooper, head grill master from Weber (opens in new tab). 'Do not let the lid open too long as the added oxygen may cause the wood to catch fire.'

A smoker box sitting on top of a gas grill grate

Keep the lid on your smoker box closed 

(Image credit: Weber)

Do I need to soak wood chips before smoking?

When it comes to outdoor grill ideas, experts are somewhat divided over whether to soak your wood chips before adding them to your smoker. 

'It’s unnecessary to soak the chips before placing them in the smoker because they’re not in direct contact with flames,' says Chris Bonnett. 'Putting the chips in water beforehand will only increase the time it takes for them to start producing smoke.' 

However, Weber's Dan Cooper advises: 'First off, soak the wood chips for 20 to 30 minutes and add them to the smoker box (we recommend one or two handfuls). Some of the boxes have a separate compartment for water, which will provide a steaming effect on the food, too. 

The metal of the box will conduct the heat of your BBQ to the soaked wood chips inside it, and the holes in the lid will direct the fragrant smoke over your food. If you want to prolong the smoking, you can simply open the lid and add more wood chips into the box.'

Hickory wood chips used to add flavorful smoke to barbecue are soaked in water before use

Some experts recommend soaking your wood chips before smoking

(Image credit: D. Trozzo / Alamy Stock Photo)

Where does the smoker box go on a gas grill?

You can sit your smoker box either on a grate or below it. The idea is to have it as close as possible to the heat source for it to produce smoke. Dan Cooper of Weber places his smoker box on the cooking grate above a lit burner tube.

The more smoke produced, the more flavor will be added to your favorite BBQ recipes.

Teresa Conway
Teresa Conway

Teresa has worked as an Editor on a number of gardening magazines for three years now. So she is lucky enough to see and write about gardening across all sizes, budgets and abilities. She recently moved into her first home and the garden is a real project! Currently she is relishing planning her own design and planting schemes. What she is most passionate about when it comes to gardening are the positive effects it has on our mental health to grow and care for plants, as well as being great for the environment too and help provide food and shelter for wildlife.